Queens Park Rangers-Stoke City Preview
Stoke City will welcome the return of their leading Premier League goal-scorer in time to help overcome the loss of another key contributor.
The Potters hope to have Mame Diouf available Saturday when they try to keep Queens Park Rangers winless on the road.
Diouf hasn't suited up for Stoke (8-5-9) since a 3-1 victory over Wrexham in their first FA Cup match Jan. 4 at Britannia Stadium. However, he could be visible for this match after his Senegal national team lost 2-0 to Algeria on Tuesday in the African Cup of Nations.
"We are trying to get him back here and we are hopeful but there is a little bit of difficulty getting him here from where the competition is being staged," Stoke manager Mark Hughes told the club's official website.
"He has got to go back to Senegal first to sort a couple of things out, but we are certainly trying to get him here in time for Saturday's fixture."
The talented striker's five league goals are a team high, and one more than recorded by Bojan Krkic, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during Monday's 4-1 FA Cup victory at Rochdale.
"It's bitterly disappointing for the club but even more so for Bojan himself as he was making such a big impact on the Premier League and clearly enjoying his football," Hughes said.
As the Potters move on with Diouf back in the mix, they'll try to improve on a current 3-1-1 league stretch that's seen them allow one goal while winning and drawing their two most recent home contests.
Stoke bounced back from their lone defeat during that span - 3-0 at Arsenal - by making Krkic's 63rd-minute goal stand for a 1-0 triumph at Leicester City on Jan. 17.
Peter Crouch - who along with midfielder Glenn Whelan signed two-year contract extensions this week - scored and also assisted on Diouf's goal during a 2-2 draw to QPR (5-4-13) at Loftus Road on Sept. 20.
Desperately trying to break free from the relegation zone, QPR are 5-4-3 in top division play at home but became the first Premier League side to lose their first 10 road matches.
"We need to go away and start picking up points,' veteran defender Clint Hill told QPR's official website. "It's as simple as that, there's nothing more to say."
That's likely easier said than done considering the Hoops have allowed a league-high 39 goals overall and been outscored 24-5 during those 10 away matches. QPR have not scored more than a goal in any league road fixture and yielded at least two in all but one.
"Even if it's just a point, let's take that point to build the confidence up, that's what we want," Hill said. "And a point can make a big difference."
QPR, who have scored only three goals while going 0-2-3 in division play since a 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion on Dec. 20, split their last two league visits to Britannia.
"Stoke has always been a difficult place to go to, especially when their fans really get behind them," said Hill, who began his career with the Potters in 2007-08 while then playing in the Championship.
"We know it's going to be a difficult game but we've got to look to break our duck when it comes to the away form."
Charlie Austin's 13 goals are third-most in the league but only one has come in the last four matches for the Hoops.